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OHIO earns high marks feedback in accreditation systems portfolio review

Ohio University is in good standing in the process to reaffirmation of accreditation, according to the findings of a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Systems Appraisal review that was returned to the University at the beginning of the month.

Michael Williford, associate provost for Institutional Accreditation, said he was surprised and pleased to receive the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) feedback so quickly. A task force of 16 University faculty and staff aided Williford in creating the document which attested to OHIO’s dedication to continuous quality improvement in five criteria. The Systems Portfolio, a snapshot of the University's entire operations, was submitted for review in November.

The University received ratings of “strong, clear, and well-presented” – the highest possible mark -- when it came to all 21 Core Components within the five criteria.
Reviewers from peer institutions within the HLC evaluated the University on the following points, which make up the HLC’s criteria for accreditation:

Criterion 1: "The institution's mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution's operations."

Criterion 2: "The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible."

Criterion 3: "The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered."

Criterion 4: "The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its education programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement."

Criterion 5: "The institution's resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future."

Williford explained that although the Portfolio that was evaluated represents the entire University, it is only one of many "touch points" the University has with the HLC.

"Their initial review of our evidence of meeting the Criteria is a very positive outcome. We will need to continue to implement our assessment plans, move forward with planning efforts, and show that we are using good data to inform our decisions. Accreditation is all about being held accountable for doing what we said we would do," Williford said. "Everything ties back to an institution's stated mission."

Though the positive feedback is cause for celebration, Williford points out it does not signal a slowdown in efforts to prepare for the remainder of the reaffirmation of accreditation process. The next milestone in the process will take place sometime during the 2014-15 academic year, when a team from the HLC will perform a Quality Checkup Site Visit to the University. Between now and the site visit, Williford says the task force and the University community must “do more.” As the AQIP process is a measure of continuous improvement and assessment, it is important not to rest on the laurels of the feedback from the Systems Portfolio, he explains.

Four Action Projects currently underway will continue the hard work of assessing and improving the University’s operations, academics and achievements. The focus of these Action Projects are:

Academic Assessment, which aims to encourage academic units to update their programs' learning objectives, develop meaningful and sustainable assessments, and action plans for improvement.

Curricular Themes, an initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences to integrate courses and encourage a team teaching approach to facilitate collaborations in curriculum.

Sustainability Implementation, which will aid in the University’s approach to attaining carbon neutrality.

Universal Design, a project in which as many as eight large (125 students or more) lecture-style classes will be redesigned to improve the learning experience for a broad spectrum of students.

Additional information about these Action Plans, as well as the PDF version of the AQIP Systems Portfolio Feedback Report can be found at http://www.ohio.edu/provost/accreditation/aqip.cfm.